HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Summer Bon Dance Season 2014

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Bon Dance Season is Here
by Kelly Moran

In the Buddhist tradition, during the summer months, Japanese residents welcome back the spirits of departed loved ones at lively and festive dance events called o-bon (most in Hawaii shorten the word to bon). There are numerous o-bon dances at venues around the island of Hawaii set for this summer season between June and August.

Photo: Hawai’i Magazine (

In Japan, the summer o-bon festivals date back to more than 500 years. In Hawaii, Buddhist temples take turns hosting the festivals and these dances have become as much social affairs as religious observances.

Everyone is welcome at the Hawaiian festivals, regardless of religious background or ethnicity making the temple festivals well-attended.

What can I expect to see at an o-bon festival?

  • Dances that participants can engage in (called bon-odori). These generally involve people circling and dancing around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura (wooden musicians’ tower). Flutes and gongs may accompany singers and taiko drums.
  • A variety of foods for sale, including musubi (rice balls wrapped in dried seaweed), stir fried noodles, andagi (sweet fried dough), barbeque sticks, stew & rice, chirashi sushi, bentos, Spam musubis, shave ice cones and more.
  • Some dressed in a yukata (summer cotton kimono) or a hapi coat.
  • Plenty of colorful chockin hanging lights. O-bon translates to “lantern festival” and the lanterns are believed to light the way for ancestral spirits, who are then greeted with offerings of flowers, food and incense.


Here are the upcoming festivals for this year:

• July 11, 12
Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, 398 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, 7 p.m.

• July 12
Kona Daifukuji Soto Mission, 79-7241 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.
Kohala Jodo Mission, Hawi, 7 p.m.
Paauilo Hongwanji Mission, 43-1477 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 7 p.m.

• July 18, 19
Hilo Meishoin, 97 Olona St. Hilo, 7:30 p.m.

• July 19
Honokaa Hongwanji Mission, 45-5016 Plumeria St., Honokaa, 7 p.m.
Keei Buddhist Church & Cemetery, 83-5569 Middle Keei Road, Captain Cook, 7 p.m.

• July 26
Papaaloa Hongwanji Mission, Papaaloa, 6 p.m.
Hilo Hongwanji Mission, 457 Manono St. Hilo, 7:30 p.m.
Kona Hongwanji Mission, 81-6630 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.

• Aug. 2
Hawi Jodo Mission, Hawi, 7 p.m.
Paauilo Kongoji Mission, 43-1461 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 7 p.m.
Taishoji Soto Mission, 275 Kinoole St., Hilo, 7 p.m.
Kurtistown Jodo Mission, Iwasaki Camp Road, Kurtistown, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 9
Hamakua Jodo Mission, Honokaa, 7 p.m.
Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, 76-5945 A Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa, 7 p.m.
Hilo Higashi Hongwanji, 216 Mohouli St., Hilo, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 15
Life Care Center, 944 W Kawailani St., Hilo, 6 p.m.

• Aug. 16
Kamuela Hongwanji Mission, Church Row, Kamuela, 7 p.m.
Hakalau Jodo Mission, Hakalau, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 23

Pahoa YBA Kaikan, Pahoa, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 30
Honohina Hongwanji Mission, 32-896 Mamalahoa Hwy, Ninole, 7 p.m.

SOURCE: Tsukikage Odorikai (

AUCTION: March 22nd! Luxurious Oceanfront Residential Estate!

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AUCTION: March 22nd. Previously $26.5M. Selling Without Reserve, to the highest bidder. Set on a breathtaking cliff along the Hamakua Coast, this former macadamia nut plantation has been transformed into a jaw-dropping, 9.44-acre estate with unparalleled amenities and never-ending views of the Pacific. This is a home for big living — for plunging off the high dive, hitting a hole in one, listening to the rush of waterfalls, and spectacular whale watching from your bedroom.

The four story superstructure of reinforced concrete is designed for any floor plan. A central 52 inch round elevator makes all three floors of living space accessible to all. No expense has been spared. First class athletic facilities include: an Olympic size swimming and diving pool, a private golf course, and a tennis and basketball stadium.

This residential estate on 8 oceanfront acres has a rooftop deck built to accommodate helicopter landings. Enter on the second floor, where you’ll find a spectacular entry, grand living room with wet bar, a chef’s kitchen and all with waterfall and ocean views. Floors are oyster quartzite, and travertine, counters –blue Labrador granite, appliances – stainless steel. Centrally located is a 3-story Daytona pneumatic handicap capable elevator.

The third level houses two master suites, each with “his & hers” bathrooms and spa tubs, walk-in closets and covered lanais. The mezzanine area houses an office and an exercise room with bar. The pool level houses a game room, media area, large wet bar and two guest suites. There are 4 bedrooms located in the main residence, and an additional bedroom in the guest house adjacent to the parking garage.

Also included in the sale price an adjacent 1.36 acre parcel.

For info and pics sent instantly to your mobile device: Text “196323” to 79564.

For full images and virtual tour, go to:

What’s So Funny About Nuns?

By Kelly Moran

What’s So Funny About Nuns?

Everybody knows that “Broadway” means big theatrical extravaganzas, but in New York, “off-Broadway” shows are smaller productions in smaller theaters or even cabarets.  Now, one of the most famous and popular of off-Broadway shows is coming to the Big Island.  It’s the outrageous, hilarious (and slightly irreverent) musical “Nunsense.”  Performances start February 8th at the Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through February 23rd.

As you might expect, “Nunsense” is about Catholic nuns, five of them, and they are in a pickle.  Nearly all of the sisters in their convent have perished accidentally, and the survivors decide to stage a variety show to raise money so they can bury them.  To put the best face on their predicament, they tap into their inner divas, singing, dancing, and – not always intentionally – clowning around.

(l-r) Christina Hussey, Stephanie Becher, Kathy Frankovic, Erin Gallagher and Corey Yester, in “Nunsense.”

Producer-Director Suzi Bond is a bundle of energy who regularly presents two musicals a year at the Kilauea Theater.  One is typically for and with children, such as “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast” (which is coming up this summer); the other offers more grownup fare, such as “The Fantasticks” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  Three of the five “nuns” are well-loved veterans of Suzi’s shows: in last year’s “Cinderella,” Stephanie Becher, Erin Gallagher and Christina Hussey were (respectively) the stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters.  Kathy Frankovic has sung in two musicals at Hilo’s Palace Theater, including “The Music Man” in which Corey Yester was Marian the Librarian.

To say “Nunsense” is a theater classic is an understatement. The original New York production ran for nine years – it’s the third-longest-running off-Broadway show ever.  It spawned a couple of spinoffs, and is widely performed all over the world in twenty different languages.  The reasons for its success go beyond its hilarity: there’s sympathy for the sisters’ lifestyle as well as their predicament, and there is quite a lot of interaction with the audience, in both expected and unexpected ways.

Kathy plays the Mother Superior and says – with a hint of what her character will do in the name of show-business – “It’s falling-down funny!”

Tickets are $15; students and seniors pay $12; children $10.  Advance sales are available at the Kilauea General Store in Volcano, Kea’au Natural Foods in the Kea’au Shopping Center, and at Paradise Plants and The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo.  For reservations and more information, phone 982-7344.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – On Stage, “The Sound of Music” Is More Than Just Music

By Kelly Moran

On Stage, “The Sound of Music” Is More Than Just Music

“The Sound of Music” could be the most popular movie-musical ever made. It would be hard to find anyone who hasn’t seen it. Far fewer people have seen the stage version; but to see it on stage is to realize that there is much more to this famous musical than some memorable songs.

Sound of Music DVD Cover

Fortunately, the opportunity to see it on stage is coming right up: it’s this year’s Fall Musical at Hilo’s Palace Theater: playing at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights October 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons October 17 and 24. For more information and tickets, phone The Palace box office at 934-7010.

I asked my friend Hal Glatzer, a local playwright and musician who’s in the cast, to explain what makes the stage musical so different from the movie. Here’s what he told me:

I think most people know that the underlying story is true,” he said. “In Austria, in 1938, a young woman named Maria forsakes becoming a nun to be the governess to a widower’s seven children. Musically gifted, she encourages them to form a family singing group with their father, Georg von Trapp. He’s a Navy captain, an Austrian patriot who hates what is happening in Germany under Hitler; so, just as World War II begins, he and his family escape over the Alps into Switzerland.

For all its merits,” said Hal, “the movie glosses over the danger that these people faced in Europe in 1938, and the hard choices that they had to make. Watch, especially, two characters who were not prominent in the movie but are key elements of the drama on stage. Elsa Schraeder is a rich widow who everyone expects will marry Captain von Trapp. And Max Detweiller [whom Hal portrays] is the producer of an annual Austrian music festival. Both characters confront the Captain with the fundamental dilemma of the late 1930s: do you work with the Nazis, so your family can live in comfort? or do you defy the Nazis, risking prison and death?”

Thus,” Hal explained, “the stage version is literally more dramatic than the movie.”  

But that said, what most people will come away with is the great pleasure of hearing Oscar Hammerstein’s poignant lyrics sung to Richard Rodgers’ beautiful music. The hills (and now the Palace Theater, too) are alive with “The Sound of Music.”

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Live from the Met… in Hilo

By Kelly Moran

Live from the Met . . . in Hilo

          It’s almost 5,000 miles from the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.  But now you can get all the way to the Met by simply going to the mall – specifically, to the multiplex movie theater there.

Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 East Puainako Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 East Puainako Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720

          Operas have been broadcast over the radio, live from the stage of the Met, for the past 79 years; they’re on Hawaii’s NPR affiliates: 91.1 in Hilo, 91.7 in Kona, every Saturday afternoon during the Met’s season, which is autumn-to-spring.

          Operas have been filmed and shown in theaters, of course, but such filming was almost always done in movie studios, and was therefore a huge expense over and above producing the opera itself.  And opera is just about the most expensive theatrical production there is.

          But four years ago, the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, arranged to have one Saturday matinee a month televised.  I know, I know: operas have been shown on TV before.  But home-size sets with tiny speakers and (until recently) rather low screen resolutions, simply can not convey the scope and scale of seeing a fully-staged opera in a theater, much less at the 3,000-seat Metropolitan Opera House.  (It’s not called “grand” opera for nothing.)

The Metropolitan Opera, New York
The Metropolitan Opera, New York

          Gelb’s innovation was to broadcast the performances in high-definition video, and to have them shown exclusively in theaters. After all, most movies are no longer distributed on film in cans.  They are digitally downloaded through satellite dishes on theater roofs, and are projected in high-definition.  Taking advantage of these new technologies, the Met’s operas are seen on big screens with full stereo sound, in more than 40 countries around the world.  (Go to for more information.)

Metropolitan Opera in Live HD
Metropolitan Opera in Live HD

          Go to the Prince Kuhio Theaters, pay $22 ($20 if you’re a senior), and you are, in effect, seeing an opera at the Met, right along with the audience in New York.  Yes, that price is about double what a movie costs; but it’s far, far cheaper than a good seat in a world-class opera house. Besides, at the multiplex, you won’t feel embarrassed if you don’t dress up; and you can eat your popcorn or candy, and drink your water or soda during the show, which, believe me, you can not do at the Met.

          The broadcasts are subtitled in English; and it goes without saying that all the performances are first-rate: the Met is where the world’s top talent wants to be seen, and there is really no other way for us in Hawaii to see them there without spending a fortune on travel and tickets.

          The shows generally are hosted by the renowned diva Renée Fleming (unless she’s singing that day). 

"America's Beautiful Voice", soprano Renée Fleming has a devoted international following wherever she appears, whether on the operatic stage, in concert or recital, on television, radio or on disc.
"America's Beautiful Voice", soprano Renée Fleming has a devoted international following wherever she appears, whether on the operatic stage, in concert or recital, on television, radio or on disc.

She typically says a few words about the opera’s composer and its stage history, and interviews the leading singers, either before the show starts or during an intermission.  The conductor and the opera’s theatrical and/or musical director will also talk about the dramaturgical choices they have made (even the oldest of chestnuts get new-concept staging, nowadays).  Such inside-stuff may seem of interest only to longtime opera buffs, but how else will a new generation of audiences be introduced to opera: it’s an open window into how this most complex of entertainment forms gets made.

          Many of the Met’s broadcasts are later shown on Public TV (PBS), and the increasing popularity of opera as television programming has made an interesting change in casting.  No longer is it only someone’s voice that matters.  TV viewers and movie-goers expect to see close-ups of the stars, and watch vigorous action-scenes.  So, to be believable, heroes have to be handsome, leading ladies have to be gorgeous, and villains have to look sufficiently evil – at least in makeup.

The next hi-def Met broadcast, "Armida," starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.
The next hi-def Met broadcast, "Armida," starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.

          The next hi-def Met broadcast is “Armida,” by Gioachino Rossini, and it starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.  “Armida” is not a famous opera, but Fleming herself is the star, and Rossini’s music is always tuneful.  It’s the last show of the season, but the next season starts in September, and will include the first two of Richard Wagner’s four operas in his “Ring Cycle” – arguably the most dramatic work in the operatic art-form. If you’ve never seen a professional opera performance, or haven’t gone in a long time, for whatever reason, take it from me: it’s worth twenty-two bucks to go to the Met.